Tool choices are continuing to expand as more organizations adopt agile practices and extend them out across the enterprise. There are comprehensive tool suites and point solutions, older products that have been adapted to agile, and newer products that are purely agile. There are also free products, enterprise solutions and choices in between. Navigating the landscape can be confusing, which can lead to mistakes, not the least of which is buying a product based on solely on its features.

The agile world is all about speed, adaptation and constant improvement, which requires organizations to understand their workflows in considerable detail. A common mistake made early in the adoption phase is hoping a tool will prescribe the “right” way of working; however, adapting workflows to tools is counter to the tenets of agile. Instead, tools must adapt to workflows.

Tools are growing up and out
Increasingly, tools are being extended to support roles outside the development team. Earlier this year, VersionOne and Rally Software announced “Ultimate” and “Unlimited” editions of their agile application life-cycle management (ALM) platforms, respectively, that extend the capabilities of their Enterprise products beyond multiple development teams to other stakeholder roles, some of which are non-technical. Key additions to both new products are idea management capabilities that capture and track the results of customer ideas and feature requests.

Meanwhile, CollabNet, another agile ALM platform provider, is now targeting workgroups in addition to enterprises with its recent acquisition of cloud hosting provider Codesion. Its TeamForge ALM platform and ScrumWorks agile project management tool are now available as Software-as-a-Service solutions.

Electric Cloud has made an effort to accommodate the way customers work. Toward that end, its Electric Commander automated build-test-deploy solution provides a plug-in architecture so users can extend the product and use their tools of choice. It can also be adapted to provide the look and feel of existing systems to minimize learning curves.

Generally speaking, greater emphasis is being place on deployment and operations as these are common obstacles to agile release cycles, especially in organizations that have distributed development teams. XebiaLabs is wholly focused on deployment automation, and the company is not alone in pointing out that continuous integration and continuous deployment are both necessary for successful agile implementations.

Because no two agile teams or organizations are alike, it is important for agile tools to adapt to customer requirements. Levels of sophistication and degrees of agile adoption can vary greatly from one group or organization to another. A minority of companies are purely agile or purely waterfall; most are some sort of hybrid. However, “hybrid” can mean a combination of waterfall and agile practices, a combination of different agile practices, or some sort of derivative that is or is not driven by best practices.

“A key aspect of ALM adoption is that no two companies are exactly alike,” said Todd Olsen, product line manager at Rally Software. “If products can’t adapt [to suit customer requirements], they’re not agile.”

Rally provides an app framework that allows customers to extend apps like project management tools so they can better meet the needs of specific business roles and industries.

ThoughtWorks Studios deems its agile ALM suite “Adaptive ALM” because it is designed to adapt to the way teams and organizations work. The suite consists of Mingle, an agile project management module; Twist, a test management module; and Go, a relatively new agile release management module that enables continuous delivery.

About Lisa L. Morgan